TRAVEL MORE Part III: Cheap Flights
Today I'm sharing four key ways to find the cheapest flights possible. Apply all of these tips and you'll be able to optimize your spending so that you can travel even more. Thanks to my hubby, the true expert, for helping with this post. Check it out:
1. ITA Matrix: the ITA Matrix allows you to expand your flight search capabilities. Let me break down some of it's benefits:
- Instead of just searching from one city to another, you can search multiple departure cities and destinations at once. For example, living in the Bay Area I have several airports nearby in San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, etc.. I would be happy to fly out of any of those depending on which one offers the lowest fare. And let's say I want to go to NYC and again am happy to fly into any one of their airports. Instead of manually having to look up each combo of possible flights, ITA Matrix allows me to do it all in one single search. This allows you to find a potentially cheaper flight departing or arriving out of a different airport while still being in the same area.
- The calendar of lowest fares allows you to choose how many nights you want to stay in your destination and then search by month to find when fares are the cheapest.
- If you are looking to build miles or status with a specific airline you can filter results to only show that airline or airline alliance.
- It's also great for searching for multi-city trips with stopovers. [Stopover: when you stop in a connection city for more than 24 hours. They are sometimes offered for an extra $100 or even for free. If you would like to see a future post about how to take advantage of stopovers let me know in the comments.]
- Once you select a flight it gives all pertinent information about that ticket. It will break down actual airfare, taxes, and additional charges. It will also list the fare class and rules associated with the ticket (change/cancellation fees, blackout dates, any restrictions). This is important because oftentimes mileage accrual, upgrading rules/fees, etc. for most airlines are affected by the ticket class fare.
- One last benefit to the matrix, which is similar to the first tip: say you want to go to Europe but are open to exactly where. You can tell the matrix that you want to depart from say the Bay Area (sfo, smf, sjc, oak) and go to Paris, Rome, Iceland or the Athens. It will literally search all of those various combinations. You just can't do that with other search engines.
2. Google Flights: they are based on the same software as ITA Matrix so it's very similar. The difference is that you can't do "advanced routing," meaning that you can't force the search engine to look up a specific routing/airline. You can, however, choose an alliance that you want to fly with. A benefit to Google Flights is their Discover Destinations feature. You can use it to set a month, trip length and departing point, and it will show you cheap flights to various destinations. On top of that, you can refine the results by adding a continent of interest. This is a great tool for if you want to travel but don't know where to go. It will give you ideas while helping you save money.
3. The Flight Deal: this is a great site that posts cheap deals every day. The most effective way to keep yourself aware of their deals is to follow them on Facebook (considering you're often on FB). That way, if you actively like or click their posts, their deals will pop up in your feed and make you aware of them as soon as possible. These kinds of deals go very quickly, so speed is important. For example, when they posted a deal from SFO to Korea on Singapore Airlines for $500 (round trip including taxes and fees), I saw it right away and called my mom immediately. I'd seen similar prices to Korea but never on such a great airline, so I couldn't let that one pass. But because I was away from my passport at the time I couldn't book until several hours later and our ideal dates were already gone. We still found dates to go, but the point is that you have to be real quick with these. Now, a good chunk of the deals will be leaving from hubs such as LA, San Francisco, NYC, etc. but that's not a deal-breaker. They still post deals from all sorts of airports, and even if they don't, you can still make it work. Some of these prices are so low that it would be worth it to grab a cheap connecting flight (or even drive) so that you can take advantage of them.
4. Email Alerts: did you know that you can subscribe to receive cheap flight alerts through TripAdvisor? I've even come across entire sites dedicated to this such as Airfare Watch Dog and Cheap Air. This isn't something I've used a ton, but it's a great option.
I hope these tips were helpful! These have been indispensable resources in our own travels, and I hope they are of use in your quest to explore the world more. Check in tomorrow for the next part in this series: Building Miles.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Road Trips
Part IV: Building Miles
Part V: Building Miles 2